WASHINGTON Oil from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico could float around Florida and up the U.S. East Coast as far as North Carolina, the National Center for Atmospheric Research said on Thursday.
Citing computer models, scientists at the federally-funded center said in a statement that the oil could reach Florida's Atlantic Coast within weeks and could move as far north as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
"I've had a lot of people ask me, 'Will the oil reach Florida?'" NCAR scientist Synte Peacock said in the statement. "Actually, our best knowledge says the scope of this environmental disaster is likely to reach far beyond Florida, with impacts that have yet to be understood."
The center's statement said the study is not a forecast because it is not possible to accurately predict where the oil will be weeks or months from now. However, the computer simulations of the oil's movement "provide an envelope of possible scenarios for the oil dispersal."
Where and when the oil will move depends on regional weather conditions and the Gulf of Mexico's Loop Current, the statement said.
More information and a computer animation of the oil's possible course are available online here
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(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko, editing by Anthony Boadle)